The Victoria Mxenge: gendered formalizing housing and community design strategies out of Cape Town, South Africa

  • Alison L. GrittnerEmail author


Women maintain a tenuous grasp on shelter as the unique challenges of lower incomes, less stable employment, and greater childcare responsibilities compromise their ability to obtain shelter compared to male counterparts. The Victoria Mxenge women negotiated for land, developed site plans, designed, and built their own houses. This ethnographic case study explores the Victoria Mxenge housing process, discovering how Victoria Mxenge participants describe their experiences designing, building, and occupying their own homes. The lived experiences of the Victoria Mxenge women reveal themes and strategies surrounding women and shelter. Community themes speak to circulating possibility, collective strength and ritual, and the importance of physically safe spaces for women. On an individual level, the deeply personal nature of dwelling reveals motivations of sanctuary, self, and meeting the daily necessities of life. Together, these themes and strategies reveal the gender-specific design strategies of low-income women relating to their homes and communities, highlighting the power of gendered participation in formalizing strategies out of informal housing.


Gender Home Informal housing Ethnography South Africa 



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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Social WorkUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  2. 2.Faculty of Environmental DesignUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada

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